What is a Jedi?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Jedi are the creation of George Lucas for his Star Wars films. They are a celibate group, quite similar in many ways to Buddhist monks, who learn to master the force, the living energy that exists in all things, to serve and protect those in need. The concept of the force, and the history of the Order is fully fleshed out in George Lucas’ second Star Wars Trilogy, Episodes 1-3 that take place prior to Luke Skywalker’s quest to bring down the Empire and the Sith in the earlier series.

The culture of the Jedi from the Star Wars movies is drawn, in part, from that of Buddhist monks.
The culture of the Jedi from the Star Wars movies is drawn, in part, from that of Buddhist monks.

Particularly in Attack of the Clones one gets a fairly complete concept of the Jedi way of life, the political structure of the Order, and the training required to become a Jedi Knight. The training, though, clearly emphasizes self-sacrifice, as shown in The Phantom Menace.

When Master Qui-Gon Jinn discovers young Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine, he urges him to train as a Jedi and leave his mother. Trainees, often called younglings, leave their families when they are as young as seven or eight. They are usually identified as having a high probability of being able to manipulate the force.

At the age of 13, a Jedi Knight or Jedi Master must choose a youngling as a Padawan learner. He or she then continues to learn the force, and the Jedi way with primary training by his Master. Younglings who are not chosen as Padawans may either return to their families or work as support in a variety of fields.

The Padawan becomes a full Knight by passing trials, which are not fully explained by Lucas in any of the films. Yoda acknowledges that Luke Skywalker is a Knight after his first confrontation with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. Luke has clearly passed the equivalent of trials.

Books not written by Lucas have referred to several trials a Padawan must pass before being knighted. Clearly not all Jedi take these trials. Obi-Wan Kenobi is given Knight status after defeating Darth Maul in the Phantom Menace. Standard trials exist to prove the Jedi’s ability to remain calm and focused, to not give way to emotion, and to be skilled with a light saber.

A Jedi Master is the highest rank, reserved for those who train a Padawan. Obi-Wan Kenobi is ultimately a Master, in Star Wars though his training of Anakin is a disaster. Yoda is the supreme Master, however.

Some Masters sit on the Jedi Council, a peacekeeping organization that helps to advise the Republic. The Council is destroyed through Emperor Palpatine’s and Anakin’s efforts. According to books not written by Lucas, Luke reinstates the Council and is considered its nominal head after reinstating the Order.

Jedi beliefs are governed by several basic principals, which lean much on many Eastern religious concepts of this world. The concept of the force is comparable to the Hindu concept of prana, or the Asian idea of qi or chi. The way of life draws much from both Buddhist and Catholic orders of monks and nuns.

Jedi must understand the following principals:

  • They are guardians of peace, and use their mastery of the force to protect rather than to attack.
  • They must have a high respect for all life.
  • They do not seek to rule but serve others who rule.
  • They are constantly learning through gaining more knowledge and continued training.
  • They form no emotional or romantic attachments.

Novels covering the period of time after the destruction of the Empire suggest Luke changed the last rule, especially because his father’s forbidden marriage to Padme is seen as a path to the dark side. Forming attachments, and showing some emotion are permissible under Luke’s reestablishment of the Order. Further, both Luke and Leia, Luke’s sister, who learns the Jedi arts, marry others, and have children.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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